Aerosol optical depth as observed by the Mars Science Laboratory REMS UV photodiodes

Michael D. Smith, María Paz Zorzano, Mark Lemmon, Javier Martín-Torres, Teresa Mendaza de Cal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Systematic observations taken by the REMS UV photodiodes on a daily basis throughout the landed Mars Science Laboratory mission provide a highly useful tool for characterizing aerosols above Gale Crater. Radiative transfer modeling is used to model the approximately 1.75 Mars Years of observations taken to date taking into account multiple scattering from aerosols and the extended field of view of the REMS UV photodiodes. The retrievals show in detail the annual cycle of aerosol optical depth, which is punctuated with numerous short timescale events of increased optical depth. Dust deposition onto the photodiodes is accounted for by comparison with aerosol optical depth derived from direct imaging of the Sun by Mastcam. The effect of dust on the photodiodes is noticeable, but does not dominate the signal. Cleaning of dust from the photodiodes was observed in the season around Ls=270°, but not during other seasons. Systematic deviations in the residuals from the retrieval fit are indicative of changes in aerosol effective particle size, with larger particles present during periods of increased optical depth. This seasonal dependence of aerosol particle size is expected as dust activity injects larger particles into the air, while larger aerosols settle out of the atmosphere more quickly leading to a smaller average particle size over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-248
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Atmospheres, composition
  • Mars, atmosphere
  • Radiative transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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